Today marks 37 years since the death of L. Ron Hubbard — founder of scientology, “Source” to his followers, compulsive storyteller and master conman.
I want to take a moment today to recommend Russell Miller’s wonderful, detailed, enlightening unauthorized biography Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.
Miller’s book opened my eyes to so much about Hubbard as he connected dots and answered many questions. The diligent research and detail in his account is remarkable, sifting through the endless stories and lies told by Hubbard about his life and accomplishments to lay bare the real story. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who was ever under the spell of “Ron.”
Obviously, the death of LRH was truly a watershed in scientology’s history.
It also marks one of the greatest cons foisted off on scientologists — the announcement held at the Hollywood Palladium that he had “causatively discarded his body” to move on with “advanced OT research.”
I write about this event in A Billion Years and the subsequent power struggle and how Miscavige ultimately prevailed. This is how I described that event:
When I arrived at the Palladium on the evening of January 27,
around six p.m., the excitement was palpable. Several hundred scientologists
mingled outside and several hundred more packed into the
lobby. The foyer buzzed with speculation and anticipation, until it was
quieted by a stern voice that boomed over the speaker, saying, “The
event starts now,” accompanied by weirdly discordant orchestral music
laden with heavy percussion, haunting horns, and angelic choruses. It
was a direct cue for us to move to our seats, and I took mine near the
front with the other OSA executives. Once everyone was settled, the
music stopped, and David Miscavige walked out alone and stood at
the small wooden podium in the center of the stage, looking even more
serious than usual.
“My name is David Miscavige,” he began. At this time, most of the
scientology world still had no idea who he was—he was very powerful
but operated mainly in the shadows—though he had some name recognition
with the mission holders. From his tone, I sensed that this was
not going to be good news. My stomach began to turn.
Miscavige did not waste time getting to the point, announcing that
L. Ron Hubbard “has now moved on to his next level of OT research.
This level is beyond anything any one of us ever imagined.” My spirits
rose: perhaps this was about the new OT VIII and beyond, and it was
now a reality.
“This level is in fact done in an exterior state. Meaning that it is
done completely exterior from the body. At this level of OT, the body
is nothing more than an impediment, an encumbrance to any further
gain as an OT.”
This is an odd statement, I thought. The next OT levels are done without
“Thus, at twenty hundred hours Friday, the twenty-fourth of January,
AD 36 [Hubbard’s calendar: ‘after Dianetics’], L. Ron Hubbard
discarded the body he had used in this lifetime for seventy-four years,
ten months, and eleven days. The body he had used to facilitate his
existence in this MEST universe had ceased to be useful and in fact
had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside of its
There was a collective gasp from the audience of 3,500 people. I
was as stunned as everyone else. The Commodore has dropped his body?
How can this be? What the fuck?
What wasn’t told to us was that three days earlier, Hubbard had
died as a result of an earlier stroke in his Blue Bird motor home on the
ranch he had purchased near Creston, California, called Whispering
Winds. The only five people with him at the time were Pat and Annie
Broeker, handyman and security guard Steve “Sarge” Pfauth, scientologist
doctor Gene Denk, and the Senior Case Supervisor International,
Ray Mithoff. Mithoff had been called to the ranch a week earlier, after
Hubbard suffered the stroke, in order to give him auditing. Notably
not present: David Miscavige; Mary Sue (who was living just ninety
miles southwest in Los Angeles, after completing her prison sentence in
1984); or any of Hubbard’s three children with her—not even Diana,
his only child who remained a loyal Sea Org member. (Suzette and
Arthur left the Sea Org in the ’80s; Quentin committed suicide in
Hubbard, or Jack Farnsworth, as he was known to the locals, died
in circumstances less than fitting for an almighty leader. It was a bit
ironic, as he had taken great care in researching how other great men
died. He had specifically noted how Simón Bolívar, the liberator of
South America from Spanish dominion, was a tragic figure who, in
Hubbard’s version of history, made so many mistakes that though he
conquered the continent, he died alone and penniless in a ditch. Hubbard
was not by any means penniless, but despite his self-proclaimed
wisdom and knowledge of all things, to expire from a stroke in a motor
home parked in a barn was hardly a noble end.
The concocted story Miscavige presented (perhaps dreamed up
with the Broekers; no one really knows), that Hubbard “causatively
discarded his body to continue his OT research,” was, I realized much
later, another stroke of evil genius. Hubbard, far from being the powerful
OT at cause over matter, energy, space, time, and thought, was, at
the end of his life, a mess. He had suffered several previous strokes as
well as pancreatitis, he had been taking strong drugs for the pain, and
his mental capacity was seriously impaired—not that I, or any other
scientologist, knew that at the time. Without the story of his necessity
to “discard his body” to “continue his OT research,” Hubbard’s death
would have thrown a lot of followers into doubt. It may well have been
the end of scientology.
Instead, the “acceptable truth” that Hubbard was so far beyond
mere mortal status that he had left this physical world on his terms
was what we all wanted to believe. This was the promise of scientology
straight from the mouth of Hubbard: Follow the path I have laid out
and you will transcend the endless cycle of birth and death and realize
your full potential as a spiritual being independent of your body and the
physical universe. Even better, it was now possible for the Commodore
to finish his job of saving everyone. Yet again, what should have
been a crack in the armor of certainty that shielded my mind became
instead a reaffirmation and impetus to do even more. Now we had to
make sure the goals of the Old Man were achieved no matter what—
he had entrusted us with that task while he moved on to bigger and
Hubbard was such a piece of shit, it literally makes me cry whenever I try to power through his babble. The greatest tragedy, imo, is that so much of Scientology is squirrelled from Hinduism, so there are fragments of truth at its core, but the rest is just a cruel joke from a desperate and deluded narcissist. This is a mere wog’s perspective, but one thing that I do appreciate?? about DM is that he seems to have made Scientology so transparently predatory/ridiculous—almost in a Robin Hood-esque fashion—as if there’s a sense of justification in preying on the evil and stupid. Which is heartbreaking, because these are the people who are the most in need of guidance, especially if they’re lost/care enough to actively seek it out. (But I’m probably wrong about that interpretation of Mr. Miscavige, considering the allegations of abuse and horror that’s protected.) Sure, common sense approaches and communication are useful tools, but there are so many other venues where catharsis, self-actualization, etc. (even enlightenment) can be acquired… like therapy. Or pretty much any other religion.
To any ex- or current Scientologists reading this, look into the core Hindu concepts of Moksha, Brahman, Samsara, Atman, etc. (forget about the gods.) The outside world really is a horrible place, but it’s still better than that constructed hell. And at least you’re free.
Dave, if you see this, it’s never too late. I’m rooting for you.
Ex Scn Public says
You know when I first started in scn around 1999 I asked “so where is LRH now?”
Funny the only “answer” I got (from an OT8) was “probably moved on to ‘Target 2’”
No mention of OT9 and 10.
Why haven’t the scn’s asked when to expect the results of LRH’s research into upper OT levels where the body is just a hinderence?
That book also helped me get out to.
I also have your fabulous book.
Can you or anybody else remember after Hubbard’s death, a video about moving on and somebody standing on a stage referring to a small pile of tech that had to be transcribed and published, then that was meant to be the last of Hubbard’s tech to be released and it would never change again?
I remember everyone cheering where I was as the Class IV auditors at that time would finish the course, then would have to redo it again with new changes. This happened many times.
Mark Fisher says
Mike I also read Russell Millers book about 4 years after I left and it changed my view on Hubbard as well. I too was at the 1986 event. The wind was taken out of the sails at that point and the DM craziness was about to get out of control.
The background interviews (not in the book) in Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard are incredible to read. Lots of additional detail.
WWW : Wisdom of the Wog World says
Sounds almost exactly like the stuff produced and promulgated by SGI-USA and their leader, Ikeda.
Bryon Eckert says
While I was a Mormon missionary in Japan I met maybe a dozen members of Soka Gakkai. However, I was too brainwashed to see that my own religion wasn’t much better. Of course going from there to Scientology was like going from the frying pan to the fire.
Lynne Pembroke says
By making this comment, befitting to do so on the Old Con-Man’s birthday, I have finally taken the last and essential step to sever the remaining mental threads that had me tied to the scientology cult I actively supported and diligently “worked for” from the moment I was a newcomer paying public in 1973 all the way through to 1989 where I became a still devoted, unknowingly duped, still paying through the nose OT VIII Ambassador public.
I continued in the same vein until 1994, when came the first small crack in the dike. After a few more rocks crumbled from that shaky, money-grubbing Munchkin Miscavage wall, and I finally understood nothing that scientology promised was ever delivered, I somehow continued to cling to the teachings of the legend-in-his-own-mind LRH but became inactive. I went to the periphery, quiet and hidden, through 2004, when I had my last semi-enforced “recovery” session at Flag. After I left that building and flew back home, I remained publicly silent and left the cult behind once and for all. Or so I thought.
However, I was still mentally attached, unaware that was the case (no pun intended). It’s taken me nineteen years and uttering one comment to a friend to comprehend that I still clung to many of the cult’s ways of “thinking,” their indoctrination, criminal mentality, and compassionless demeanor. And I was still afraid. At that moment, in early January of 2023, I realized I needed to cleanse my emotional and mental state and start recovering who I really was. I needed to re-educate myself.
I began binge-watching all three seasons of Mike and Leah’s A&E show, followed by reading Mike’s book, Jon Atack’s book, then “Barefaced Messiah.” I read all the footnotes of those last two books, then researched and found most of the articles referenced and read them, along with the copy of the coroner’s findings at LRH’s death. Then I watched and listened to the podcasts from “Fair Game,” then the podcasts of “Blown for Good” and “Growing up in Scientology,” all of which I continue to watch. At last, “Truth Revealed!” This time, pun intended.
I am finally healing. I am writing up my scientology history, the details, in the hope that I can, if not mend, then at least explain to my children, from whom, over twenty years ago, I was forced to disconnect, along with the rest of my entire family, my sister the only one remaining alive today. While my sister and I reconciled, and so too with my mother, right before she died, I was too ashamed to contact my daughters sooner. I was unwilling to cause them any more pain, upset, or suffering than I had already inflicted upon them. But now, armed with what I know, I owe it to them and myself to try and give them some understanding.
Unlike LRH, I have come back! And on his birthday… poetic justice, wouldn’t you say?
Mike Rinder says
Thank you — amazing story.
Lynne Pembroke says
Wow! I did something similar, we were both January 2023 rebirth! Happy to know you Lynne.
Lynne Pembroke says
Happy Birthday, Ruth! Glad to know you, too.
Fred G. Haseney says
Poetic justice, indeed, Lynne.
Welcome to the world outside of Scientology. I did like you have done: after 37 years in that cult, I managed to find myself out “here.” I, too, clung to Hubbard’s “technology,” thoroughly intending to go the Independent Route. Soon, however, I realized I could not navigate that course and maintain civility and sanity at the same time.
Your post here is a “Declaration of Independence,” and deserves its own place on this blog, much like how Mike helped me announce my Independence roughly 8 years ago. Ask Mike if he’d do that for you, because the responses to that post would be more direct than would an answer, such as this one, to a comment you made. He also did the same for Cindy Temps, which Mike published shortly before he did mine.
Here’s to more POWER to you, Lynne.
P.S. Is that your real name? If so, that is a feather in your cap!
Lynne Pembroke says
Thanks for the welcome. And I’m glad you also got out.
Writing what I did and posting it was sufficient to declare my independence and finally feel it take hold emotionally and mentally, fast and steady, after physically being out for nineteen years. But I thank you for your suggestion. And yes, I used my real name. I knew it wouldn’t have been a complete declaration of independence if I hadn’t done so.
Continue to enjoy your freedom!
Fred Haseney says
Wow, Lynne, I am blown away. Wow!
Enjoying life outside that awful group is time to cherish.
Lynne Pembroke says
Thank you, Fred. I am enjoying my freedom.
Wow Lynn you really did your research. Welcome to the light! I think I may know you. In the early 90’s did you and your then husband work with Jim Kalergis, arranging talks for him and fsming people from that? I can’t remember your husband’s name (I think he has an English accent?)
but I remember yours. Are you the same person I’m thinking you are? Anyway glad to know you’re out.
Lynne Pembroke says
Thanks for the welcome! And good memory!
Yes, that was one of the many misguided cult activities I did in the 1990s with my then-husband (no longer such since 2004), who was/is British, and Jim.
Glad you’re basking in the freedom light, too.
Good to know my memory was good, Lynn. PM me on FB or at firstname.lastname@example.org cuz I have a story about your ex that will make you laugh.
Lynne Pembroke says
Be on the lookout for me in your email.
Ex Scn Public says
Great Job! I stopped going on course about 18 months ago, then about 6 months ago started reading, listening to, and watching anything I could to really uncover the truth.
It really is quite liberating!
I’m happier than ever, and have so much more time and money to enjoy life (the three things Scientology always promised more of but never delivered).
Congratulations and WELCOME to YOUR freedom!!!
Lynne Pembroke says
Dear Ex Scn Public,
Congratulations! Welcome to your freedom, too.
This is beautiful. I’m so happy for you. 🙂
Lynne Pembroke says
Brad C says
Good for you, Lynne. Welcome. Thanks for sharing your story.
Lynne Pembroke says
Thanks for the welcome, Brad, and for reading my story.
Good article…so weird to look from a different perspective. And how just as odd, that we would have done about anything (for The Old Man).
At one time, it was a damn challenging but fun game. Nothing else on the planet like it. And I realize that seems nuts, but some, totally understand what I just wrote, and agree.
I was at the event as well in 1986, even though I was a dedicated Sea Org member, I still was very skeptical of what Miscavige and Pat Broker said about Hub Hub. I just had an inclination that he was going to die sometime in the mid 80’s. I should have left then as it got worse and worse from there on. It already sucked when he was alive and I knew it was going to get very ugly. Unfortunately, I stayed another 12 years.
Kate Shelor says
I’ve started watching the Leah Remini documentary show and it’s been so fascinating. I’m a hypnotherapist and so I can recognize so many psychological techniques that they use to control people. It’s fascinating but also very sad.
I’m curious, when it comes to disease, do Scientologists believe that they are a reflection of a weak mindset?
Kate Shelor says
How do Scientologists content with things like cancer or heart disease? Are illnesses considered a reflection of your state of mind?
Scientologists are supposedly or potentially cause over life, depends on one’s level in it of course. There’s always another level or something else to buy with Scientology, it’s a perpetual scam and always dangles a carrot in front of you.
It has always amazed me how others looking in, seem to generalize what Scientologists consider. A true, “in good standing Scientologist” can be easily viewed and understood by reading what Hubbard said to accept about life, he set himself up the singular source of all what Scientology entails. It is a very robot like existence. Miscavige imo just added a mean and nasty clout to enforce obedience, plus make a lots and lots of money.
Back in the 80s it was possible to distance yourself from the subject somewhat if you practiced “self determinism,” what Hubbard said to do! But, as time went on being self determined in Scientology was deemed a no no and it soon got you declared or cost you your family or friends. It’s an insidious and brutal control mechanism used against you once inside its influence. You are simply not allowed to be you in Scientology!
For what it’s worth, after a long, long study of the subject, getting to OT7, plus a decade on staff, I realized I was conned. Notwithstanding the indignation and loss of $ and time, but the body if one can separate it out of the spiritual and mental influences is a carbon oxygen, organic engine. I’ve seen many Scientologists treat their car or pet with more care than their own bodies, especially when Hubbard looks with disdain upon the medical profession.
Good luck with you analysis of Scientologists – it gets pretty loopy as Hubbard insisted all medical conditions can be audited out – it truly is one of his biggest and most dangerous lies. Dianetics the book is best thrown in the garbage.
That’s what…16 years beyond his 21 year leave-of-absence? Your insight, as usual, is much appreciated Mike. Keep up the outstanding work.
John Doe says
I heard the news about Hubbard’s death from an AM all-news station in LA, as I was making my way to work.
I later went into ASHO to watch a video of the event.
I remember some Scn friends saying they were glad the Challenger blew up (a few days later) to take over the news and get the story of LRH’s demise off the front page of the LA times.
That’s how f*caked up one’s thinking can get when you’re in a cult and terrified of possible “How come…” questions from friends and family while you’re struggling with those same questions yourself.
There was a cult in London, much much smaller than Scn, that claimed the Challenger exploded because members were ‘challenging’ the leader. Same principle.
Highly recommend Bare-Faced Messiah! Keep fighting the good fight! Praying that more and more people know the true story of LRH.
John Woodman says
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to themselves, that we’ve been taken.
Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a candle in the Dark
Mary Kahn says
I know an ex scientologist who read Barefaced Messiah while in and he remained in the church after reading it. What got him out? – being fleeced out of so much money on a visit to Flag. Sometimes the church of scientology will dish out the exact right thing to snap someone out of it. Sometimes it doesn’t. I of course had a breaking point and got out. There are so many moments when I realize the power I gave the church over me and just shake my head.
“There are so many moments when I realize the power I gave the church over me and just shake my head.”
You are still far, far ahead of those who have not had such realizations while deluding themselves that their actions stem from their own determinism.
You are in much better shape – far, far healthier – certainly mentally and emotionally, and I’d bet physically too – than they are.
Gabriel Halliwell says
The important thing is that you finally managed to summon up the strength and the courage to get out. One day out of this cult brings more happiness to people than a Billion years in the cult. There is no comparison.
I will never forget the story you told about how you were accosted by a number of cult bullies in a bus terminal and you just sat down and were ready to scream if any of them put hands on you to restrain and prevent you from leaving. This was much in the same vein as what Claire Headley did.
This should be made known to all people considering escaping the cult. The cult must avoid public spectacles at all cost. So if someone sits down and yells and screams that people from the cult are attempting to prevent them from leaving the cult, that should be good enough to defeat them. At least it should be good enough to enable you to leave the cult.
I wonder how many people try to leave the cult but fail to follow through because they don’t know that by making a loud public spectacle they could likely succeed.
In any case, Very Well Done Mary!